Former Cal running back Patrick Laird was not taken in the NFL Draft, which was completed Saturday, but he has signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins, Laird reported on Twitter.
Laird was among four ex-Cal players who signed free-agent deals Saturday. Linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk signed with the Carolina Panthers, tight end Ian Bunting with the Chicago Bears and offensive lineman Patrick Mekari with the Baltimore Ravens.
Laird has gone this route before. He was a walk-on at Cal but was the Bears’ leading rusher the past two seasons and was a two-year team captain. In his junior and senior seasons combined, Laird rushed for 2,088 rushing yards and caught 96 passes for 610 yards and five touchdowns.
The Dolphins ranked 18th in the NFL in rushing in 2018. Their leading rusher was Frank Gore, who rushed for 722 yards while starting all 14 games in which he played. However, Gore signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills last month as a free agent.
Miami’s No. 2 rusher in 2018 was Kenyan Drake, who gained 535 yards on the ground and was an effective receiver, catching 53 passes for 477 yards.
The Dolphins drafted two running backs on Saturday, both in the seventh round – Myles Gaskin of Washington and Chandler Cox of Auburn.
Kunaszyk was among the nation’s most productive defensive players last fall, ranking fifth in the FBS with 148 total tackles on the way to earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors. He was not invited to the NFL Combine but he prepared for his chance at the pros.
Bunting came to Cal as a graduate transfer from Michigan and Mekari anchored the Bears’ offensive line from his tackle spot.